For the Love of Soup
–written by Heather Leach, Agriculture Education Manager
As the temperature drops, I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen. Sure a lot of that time is spent eating (my pants can attest to that), but I also enjoy cooking during the winter too. What the season lacks in abundant fresh ingredients, it makes up for in hearty and comforting storage crops – and the chance to crack open the array of colorful jarred veggies that I canned over the summer. I can easily – and quite contentedly – spend an evening paging through cookbooks and planning menus I wouldn’t have the patience to prepare in the summertime. And one of my favorite winter dishes is soup. Soups are forgiving and flexible, allowing you to work with ingredients that you have on hand, can be accommodatingly simple and store incredibly well. And they hit the spot like no other food can when the polar vortex arrives on our doorsteps. What is not to love about soup? It is no wonder then that soup gets its due this month as we celebrate National Soup Month. While you may be tempted to celebrate by reaching in the pantry for a convenient canned variety, avoid that temptation as they tend to be high in sodium. Instead, take a few more minutes to make your own delicious recipe from scratch. In celebration of soup, I have compiled three recipes that make the most of seasonal and healthy ingredients, without taking hours to prepare.
Minestrone with Collard Greens and White Beans
Recipe: Martha Stewart
This soup packs a healthy punch with the combination of seasonal greens, protein-rich beans and canned tomatoes. Lycopene, a disease-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes, can be more easily absorbed by the body from canned processed tomatoes (particularly tomato paste, where the lycopene is most concentrated), so make the most of their health benefits this winter by skipping the hard, anemic tomatoes in the produce aisle and picking up their canned cousins. Don’t feel you have to follow this recipe to the T; minestrone is great with whatever vegetables you have on hand, and consider adding beef or sausage if you’d prefer a meaty variety.
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium onion, chopped 2 cloves garlic, minced Coarse salt and ground pepper 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 pound (about 2 bunches) collard greens, stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes 2 cans (19 ounces each) white beans, rinsed and drained 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, in juice Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until onion is coated, about 30 seconds. Add collard greens, thyme, and red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, until collards start to wilt, 2 to 4 minutes.
Place 1/4 of beans in a bowl, and mash them with the back of a spoon (this will help thicken soup). Add all the beans to the pan, as well as tomatoes with juice and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; redu